[appeared in Kyouiku Katei Shinbun May 1998]
In Germany, like in Japan, school starts at the age of 6, and
compulsory education is 9 years. After 4 years of elementary school
parents have the choice between several educational tracks:
Hauptschule (5 years) or Realschule (6 years) are meant to prepare for vocational education, the more academic oriented Gymnasium (9 years) finishes with the final examination "Abitur", which is the general "ticket" into university.
Whereas countries like France or England have a more centralised educational system, in Germany cultural and educational issues (like what types of school to build or curricula content for every subject) are decided not by the national Ministry of Research and Education, but by the 16 Ministries of Education in the federal states. Thus, although everywhere the new school year starts in autumn and the second term in spring, school may start in August in some states and in September in others.
Although especially in high school most education takes place in
subject lessons, there are examples of more integrative or problem
Educational reform in the 1960es and 70es has brought about comprehensive schools where more forms of open learning are being practiced. There are some private Waldorf or Montessori schools. In most public schools, too, we now have "project weeks" or "project days", where instead of normal lessons all students work on a topic of their choice for a certain period.
In some states interdisciplinary learning will be stronger promoted in the near future. E.g. in the state of Hesse there are plans to start every new school year in grades 11-13 with a three week period of topic centered interdisciplinary learning, the topics being decided in every school.
This is a good opportunity for conducting Internet projects as well,
and many teachers now use project weeks for Internet introduction
courses, home page building, creating a www newspaper about all
projects that have been conducted etc.
The biggest part of all such projects is documented in German, unfortunately: